Holocaust Denial and Reason Magazine: 1976

Drawing of two British colonials in wicker chairs with the label:

What I imagine the editorial room of Reason looked like way back in 1976

Although they deny it, in 1976 Reason magazine published an issue devoted to Holocaust denial.  The issue didn’t contain any claims of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy about how the Holocaust was a hoax. It was “softcore” Holocaust denial which Deborah Lipstadt defines as:

Softcore denial uses different tactics but has the same end-goal. (I use hardcore and softcore deliberately because I see denial as a form of historiographic pornography.) It does not deny the facts, but it minimizes them, arguing that Jews use the Holocaust to draw attention away from criticism of Israel. Softcore denial also makes all sorts of false comparisons to the Holocaust. In certain Eastern European countries today, those who fought the Nazis may be lauded, but if they did so with a communist resistance group they may be prosecuted. Softcore denial also includes Holocaust minimization, as when someone suggests it was not so bad. “Why are we hearing about that again?”

One of the articles in Reason was by Austin J. App, a notorious antisemite. With the notion that parody and satire can do important critical work let us imagine what the editorial meeting was like when they decided to publish a piece by Austin App. Come with me now and using the power of imagination, we will go back to 1976 and the Reason editorial board meeting….

Editor 1: “How’s the special World War II Revisionism issue shaping up?”

Editor 2: “Thing are great. We have this article on the expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe after the war. That was certainly a tragedy we should include, right?”

E1: “Absolutely! That is a tricky subject however. The records are hard to come by and there are all kinds of statistics that are thrown around. Who wrote the article? Some top-notch history professor who has carefully gone through the messy mass of material to get an accurate account of the tragedy?”

E2:” No. The author’s name is Austin App, he’s a retired English professor.”

E1: …..

E2: “But he’s written a lot on World War II! Let’s not reject the article just because of that. After all, we have Percy Greaves in the issue already; he’s a libertarian economist and we already agreed to publish his article on Pearl Harbor! So, we aren’t too hung up on disciplinary qualifications.”

E1: “Ok, good point. Well, what’s App’s track record? You say he’s written about World War II revisionism before? What’s his latest publication? Who published it?”

E2: “OK, so a couple years ago he published the Six Million Swindle that claims the Nazi’s never slaughtered six million Jews.”

E1: “What? That seems crazy. Well, I’m glad the article he submitted didn’t make that claim because that is pretty out there.”

E2: “Well, the Swindle book does talk about the German mass expulsions so his article is related to it. In Swindle he writes: “This expulsion of 12,000,000, including the Sudeten Germans, murdering 2,500,000 of the unfortunates, represents the greatest mass atrocity in history. Compared to this, all real and alleged Nazi war crimes dwindle in size and in gravity.”  See? He wants to push the expulsion stuff as part of his larger agenda to minimize the Holocaust. Isn’t that the kind of edgy, radical stance we want to take here at Reason?”

E1: ….

E2:” Even if he did claim that, it isn’t a problem for us because we’ve already published claims that six million Jews weren’t killed by the Nazis! Remember back in the February issue we ran that interview with Jim Martin? You remember Jim, he publishes a lot of book reviews for us. Anyway in that interview we published he was talking about that French literature professor Paul Rassinier and Jim said:

Well, I never made a head count of all who lost their lives in the War—we’ve seen a wide variety of statistical materials, some of which have been pulled out of thin air. As a consequence, it’s hard to make any kind of estimate of this sort, whether ten more were killed on the one side or the other is not a particularly entrancing subject as far as I’m concerned. Whether allegations can be proven it remains to be seen. I don’t believe that the evidence of a planned extermination of the entire Jewish population of Europe is holding up. I have been influenced over the years by the works of Paul Rassinier, and he still has to be reckoned with. His works have been ignored for a long time, and sooner or later somebody’s going to have to do a decent job of coping with what he has presented. I think Rassinier’s general case is sound at the moment and I haven’t seen any strong evidence to upset his allegations or his assertions that there was no planned program for the extermination of European Jews. His other main case is that there were no gas chamber extermination programs. The fact that a great many people lost their lives is incontrovertible—that the German concentration camps weren’t health centers is well known—but they appear to have been far smaller and much less lethal than the Russian ones.

E1: “Well, good point. I guess we think it is reasonable to publish people who deny that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. But, back to this App guy; who was his publisher for this Six Million Swindle book? After all, if a reputable press has signed off on his historical chops, that would mean it has been vetted by somebody at least.”

E2: “Boniface Press published it. They published all of App’s work. It is, um, his own press. What might be called a vanity press.”

E1: [holding his head in his hands] “Really? Besides this book about the Jewish conspiracy to lie about the six million deaths, what are some of his other titles. That he’s published himself. ”

E2: “Well, he’s pretty prolific. [Checking notes] Lessee…. besides Swindle some of his other titles are:

  • Christian Reservations about Integration (1970)
  • Reply to Jewish Bircher (1969)
  • Anti-Semitism: A Phony Bogey (1963)
  • German Women in Soviet Hands (1962)
  • Munich Pact of 1938 was Belated Justice not Appeasement (1953)
  • Action on a War Crime: President Truman’s Duty to 12,000,000 Expellees (1950)
  • Ravishing the Women of Conquered Europe (1947)”

E1: “Ok, stop. At least tell me the article he submitted is based on up-to-date research on the tragedy of German expulsion. Tell me that he is at least basing in on something credible.”

E2: “Actually, it is a recycling of the same statistics and arguments he’s been making since 1946 in publications like History’s Most Terrifying Peace (1946), The Big Three Deportation Crime (1946), Slave Laboring German Prisoner’s of War (1946). It really doesn’t show any evidence that App has read anything that tries to grapple with its subject matter. It is the same thing he’s been writing for thirty years and that he pushes in order to make it seem like the crimes of the Allies are greater than Nazi crimes.”

E1: “Ok, let’s recap: We have an article that the author has done no significant research on. An article by a known antisemite. An article with a central thesis the author uses to minimize the Holocaust. An article by a guy who actually thinks the Holocaust is a Jewish lie. We think that this is the writer who best represents good historical inquiry in the most popular libertarian publication in the United States?”

E2: “Yes. I think that in the future libertarians will argue that our running this piece by this person is no big deal. They will either say the article is a good one or they will say that it was good history for the time. They won’t ever question why we thought it was important for the libertarian cause to publish it. Under no circumstances will they say it is a tremendous error that betrays a woeful lack of judgment. They will never, ever admit that libertarian ideology leads to any terrible outcomes.”

E1: “Yeah, you are right. It’s in!”

In unision: “For Freedom!”

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